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Use What You Have! Ministry in the Days of Coronavirus

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Have you ever read about Shamgar in the Bible?

He was one of the deliverers of Israel, and although only one verse in the Bible is given to his major accomplishment, his story is told to us in Judges 3:31, “Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.”

We’ll get back to that victory a little bit later. But there is one other passage in the Bible that gives us some more background information about him. Later on, the book of Judges cites “the Song of Deborah”. In one stanza of that song there is also a brief reference to Shamgar. Notice Judges 5:6-7, “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways.  Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel…”

Certainly, there are some parallels in that narrative to life today. Highways were empty, travelers had to sneak around, and their sense of community life “ceased”. In this time in the history of the nation of Israel the people were hiding due to what one commentator called “raiders” or thieves.

The nation needed a deliverer – and God raised up Shamgar. His name was probably Egyptian in origin and the text tells us that he was “the son of Anath”, which meant that he was perhaps from that lineage and may have been somewhat of a “mercenary” who changed sides to help protect the children of Israel.

This is where the story of Shamgar gets interesting. His weapon of choice in this incredible victory was an “ox goad”. Shamgar used what he had in his hand. The ox goad was a familiar farm implement, which means he was probably employed as a farmhand, working for someone else at the time. This tool was usually a long, pointed stick with two basic purposes. One was to “goad” or prod the oxen into moving through the plowing fields and the other was to sometimes clean the plows from the clumps of dirt and perhaps manure that tended to build up around the blade when plowing.

Shamgar had an ox goad and he used what he had in his hands for God, and God used him to accomplish something very special.

We are living in interesting times. Almost everyone I talk to uses the word “weird” to describe our world’s reaction to the current Coronavirus crisis. Churches have canceled their services, schools are closed, and grocery stores are running out of basic supplies. Church leaders and youth workers are certainly wondering what to do now. What do the times demand of us?

My advice is to do what Shamgar did. Use what you have!

Today we have computers, cell phones, and other means of technology. We have some tools we can use. We have the means to communicate with others – and we can do things with individuals, and we can meet in small groups. We can still minister, and we can still reach out. So, we should utilize what we have to accomplish what God has called us to do.

We don’t need to hunker down. We don’t need to retreat into our homes in fear. Ministry now will demand some creativity, some initiative, and some new looks. But it can still be done.

I’m sure that no one expected Shamgar to win with his ox goad, but he accomplished something great for God.

Like the ending of the Song of Deborah says in Judges 5:31b, “…let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.”

My Top 5 Books From Summer ’19

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Here are some quick reviews of my top 5 list of significant books that I read this summer. Each of these books has helped me think through key issues related to church ministry and today’s culture. I’d love to know what you’ve been reading, too.

  • “I just finished reading, “Generation Z: A Century in the Making” by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace. This book may honestly be the definitive book out there on Gen. Z. (And, I’ve read several.) Their writing style is easy to read, and their research is extensive and quite thorough. It’s obvious that they have done their homework. They also provide an overview of other generations which sets the stage for how Gen. Z is impacting culture today. I am convinced that every leader should read this book to get a glimpse into how this generation will impact everything about Western culture. We must learn all we can about this generation – which will have more and more of a lasting influence on education, business, and religious organizations. Thanks to Seemiller and Grace for their excellent work.”
  • “This is the book we’ve needed in youth ministry. If anyone has ever asked you about the Biblical basis for youth ministry, hand them a copy of “A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry” by Steve McGarry. It is grounded and saturated with solid Biblical principles – and McGarry makes a logical case for how those principles apply to where our youth ministries should be focused. This book demonstrates his understanding of contemporary youth culture and the key issues that are confronting the church, families, and the discipline of youth ministry. Chapters six through eight are especially important and potent for all of us to think these priorities (the family, the Gospel, and connecting the home and the church) though for our ministry plans. I highly recommend his book to everyone, from students to youth ministry professors, involved in this essential area of church ministry.”
  • “In a time when voices are predicting the imminent demise of the church – this book, Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, is a refreshing and encouraging change of pace. This is not the typical “the church is failing our youth” or “the youth ministry experiment has failed” treatise. David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock have taken a different tack. This work instead is a hopeful and reassuring approach. Their research based and Biblically centered style is so much different to what else is being written today about the fate of new generations in the church. As David and Mark would say, “We need Exiles”, and this book proves that statement. Seriously, all ministry leaders should devour this book right away.”
  • “Earlier this summer I read Ron Belsterling’s new book, “In Defense of Youth Ministry” – and found it to be an important read for all youth pastors, youth workers, pastors, and other church leaders. Ron is a strategic voice in the current youth ministry conversation. He is an experienced educator and scholar, but he is also practitioner with a great deal of hands-on experience in youth ministry. I honestly believe that anyone who is interested in the importance of reaching and ministering to emerging generations should read this book and then think through what Ron has presented.”
  • “Glenn T. Stanton, of the Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, is a reputable scholar and researcher – albeit one who forms different conclusions. His book, “The Myth of the Dying Church” is one voice that presents a distinct viewpoint than many others who see the “sky is falling” cries of young adults leaving the church and the church is failing because “nones” are leaving the church attitudes. I appreciated his thorough research – and especially his optimism concerning the church. I definitely agree that God is not finished with His church and that our task is to base what we do in the church on clear Biblical principles and yet, adjust to culture to effectively communicate God’s truth to emerging generations. You’ll need to read the book yourself to see how Stanton can look at much of the same research and demographics as other writers and come to different conclusions.”
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